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Will AI Replace Authors?

The AI Revolution

The rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT has begged the question: Will AI replace authors?

Will AI Replace Authors?
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Hemingway versus Hemingtech? Steinbeck versus Steintech? Shakespeare versus Shakes… Never mind. You get the point. 

The rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT has begged the question: Will AI replace authors? 

What was once just something for science fiction books has now become a subject people are increasingly wondering about—and worried about.

But before Shakespeare and Hemingway roll over in their respective graves with the thought they could be outdone by a robot writer, let’s take a deeper look at this topic.

What Is Generative AI?

What Is Generative AI?

First, we have to look at the state of artificial intelligence today. AI has grown in leaps and bounds in the last few years and is quickly becoming more and more enmeshed in our society.

The most famous AI tool right now getting its 15 minutes of fame is OpenAI’s ChatGPT. For those living under a rock for the last year, ChatGPT is artificial intelligence software that is being used by millions around the world to help them with their work or just to create funny things.

Here’s how it works:

You sign up for free and can start giving it prompts. Some of the examples it gives for prompts are:

  • “Explain quantum computing in simple terms”
  • “Got any creative ideas for a 10-year-old’s birthday?”
  • “How do I make an HTTP request in Javascript?”

ChatGPT then dutifully searches its database of knowledge from the web and uses its predictive model to give you the best answer. Sometimes the answer is helpful, informative, and enlightening. Sometimes it’s funny, even hilarious. Other times it can be less than useful.

You can even talk to ChatGPT and it answers back. Pretty cool. (Unless it actually starts talking back to you with snarky, hurtful responses and then finds ways to turn against its human master and destroys… Okay, let’s not go there in this article.)

ChatGPT uses a branch of AI called Natural Language Processing (NLP). This programming allows it to mimic and mime whatever humans give it to work with. So it’s pulling from Big Data, neural networks, statistics, information sources across the Internet, and deep learning. But it’s not thinking on its own or creating things from scratch.

There’s no doubt that ChatGPT is fun to play with. And it can be super useful.

But is it more than a robot plaything? Will it soon put authors in the dustbin of history? If you’re an author currently making your living through self-publishing tools like Amazon, should you be worried?

Here’s What ChatGPT Says

Obviously—in keeping with the widespread yet unoriginal Internet trend of allowing ChatGPT to weigh in with its own opinion—we asked it to answer the question: Will AI replace authors?

Here’s what R2-D2 said:

“While AI has shown significant advancements in natural language generation, it is unlikely that AI will completely replace authors anytime soon. AI-generated writing can be useful in certain applications such as automated content generation for news articles, product descriptions, or even chatbots, but it still lacks the creativity, nuance, and emotional depth that human authors bring to their work.

“AI-generated writing can be formulaic and lack the ability to understand cultural context or humor. Furthermore, authors bring their unique experiences, perspectives, and voices to their writing that cannot be replicated by AI.

“Additionally, reading is not just about conveying information, but it is also about connecting with other human beings, exploring different worlds, and empathizing with characters. AI-generated writing cannot provide the same emotional connection and satisfaction that readers derive from a well-written novel, memoir, or poem.

“Therefore, while AI may assist authors in certain aspects of the writing process, it is unlikely to replace them in the near future.”

Score one for human authors! But in all seriousness, ChatGPT’s answer brings up some good points about what makes human authors so unique.

The Power of Human Creativity

The Power of Human Creativity

Art. Poetry. Music. Novels. Plays. Comedy. Dunkaroos. The pogo stick. These are all things that came from a human being’s brain—invented by men and women through their imaginations.

Now think of some of the most impactful books, movies or pieces of art you’ve seen. Maybe it’s a statue. Or a painting hanging up in the Louvre. You’ve laughed. You’ve cried. You felt something.

AI can do some of that artistic work with the right kinds of prompts, but it doesn’t yet compare to the quality and beauty of a human artist. Great original works like A Tale of Two Cities, the Sistine Chapel, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Home Alone.

So, even though AI is exciting and powerful—even transformational—it hasn’t yet risen to the level where it can match human creativity. But that doesn’t mean that AI still can’t be used by writers in a big way to help them level up.

To Prompt or Not to Prompt

When it comes to AI replacing authors, we can’t overlook the subject of prompting. ChatGPT can’t create anything on its own. These AI models are still machines that need human input. They require prompts from their human overlords. 

On the flip side, when human authors sit down to write something, they just stare at a blank page for 37 days until something comes out. They usually don’t have anyone feeding them a cheat-sheet of prompts like…

“Write 500 words on why bluebirds sing so loud during a thunderstorm.”

“Write a 70,000-word novel about the story of the U.S. President sending his beloved Golden Retriever dog to be the first animal to colonize Mars.”

“Write a 100-word poem about losing your crush to your best friend during the summer before you graduated high school.”

Instead, authors pull from the ether of their life experience, or what interests them, and just start writing. No prompts given.

This is another area where AI doesn’t match up to human creativity. Despite the power of technology, there is still something special about the human being’s ability to create something from nothing.

AI needs a little help from us with the prompts, but can be a game-changer if used right. Once you really hone in on the prompts, AI can be a tremendous tool in the writer’s toolbox. Be as specific as you can with the prompts. Add details that will help make it more interesting. Otherwise, if you just tell it to write a song about a lost love, the results can be not-so-great.

That said, AI will continue to adapt and be developed so it becomes more creative and possibly outdo some of humanity’s creativity. We’re just not quite there yet.

How Is AI Being Used?

Despite some of AI’s limits, it’s still being used in a lot of ways to help authors in their writing process. For instance, it can be an invaluable tool for researching a topic. It can also be a great tool to come up with creative ideas for things if you’re stuck in a brain fog or writer’s block. AI tools can help smash through those blocks. Even if it’s just playing with a few funny prompts and then getting back to work.

AI also comes in handy creating outlines for articles or essays. It can give you ideas for how to put together your thoughts in a logical way. After all, computers are great at that kind of stuff. Logic, math, etc.

Writers are also using ChatGPT and other tools to help with character and plot development, dialogue, descriptions and building fictional worlds. (It’s worth checking out this New Yorker piece of an author putting ChatGPT to the test with fiction writing.) And it can be great for proofreading and editing to find inaccuracies, typos and grammar mistakes.

All of this brings into question the authorship and credit for work. If an AI tool did much or most of the work, who really wrote it? Should a human writer really be given credit or receive an award for something an AI computer model created? Lots of questions and it will certainly be interesting to watch how this plays out in the future.

AI can also be used for the wrong reasons. Like increasing the amount of spam online or spreading false information. New tools will need to be developed to counteract these dark patterns and put some checks and balances into place.

AI is certainly changing the writing profession and publishing industry in big ways. Some writing jobs will probably be replaced by AI. Other writing roles will be changed. And some new writing jobs that involve AI will open up that haven’t even been thought of yet.

Will AI Replace Authors?

So, the question we started with: Will AI replace authors?

Our crystal ball is broken. We, like everyone else on the planet, can’t see into the future. Although we, like everyone else on the planet, have a lot of opinions about what will happen. But despite our Nostradamus-complex to try to predict the future, we can speculate on a few things with (somewhat) certainty.

Authors shouldn’t sweat AI tools. AI won’t replace authors any time soon. The consensus among web and tech thinkers is that artificial intelligence will not totally replace a human writer or their creativity. There is still a huge market for the original work of creative writers willing to put their story and expertise out there to share with the world.

That said, many believe that writers using AI tools will replace writers not using them.

If you’re a human writer, there are still a lot of ways to make money online through platforms like Amazon publishing and other places. Instead of worrying about AI, writers and publishers should lean into them and leverage their power to save them time. Learn how to tap into the power of these AI tools. They’re not going away. Now is a great time to get familiar with AI tools to take your craft to the next level.

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